Loudest Rock Interview with Sean Tarr
What happens when you have a meeting of dynamic guitars and meaty aggressive vocals delivering songs cut from the perfect cloth of melodic metal? You get a BRAND all its own. "BRANDED" is the new release from Kivel recording artists TNA. Some bands usually lead with their best material on the first time out and suffer a sophomore let down curse that has befallen many bands that have come and gone. This is not the case however with these four lads. They have flipped the script as some would say, and definitely saved the best for act II. "Branded" shines a light on what was the best elements of the bands first album and then enhanced it to a new level. Dare I say that album 3 should be even a bigger corker of an album and leave people whipping their brow in exhaustion of such a brutal assault on the rock senses. Sean Tarr has stepped up to the deck and taken charge masterfully with his brand of playing. This album is not a album short on guitars, it is a album that will have guitar album fans salivating and wondering where has this man been hiding all this time! I dare say that Sean's second time out, is as if a man possessed and out to avenge something or someone. God only knows who or what, rest assured though he will succeed. The Loudest Rock had a chance to sit down with this demon possessed guitar player and get down to the meat of things.

The Loudest Rock: Sean what was the main inspiration behind the new album 'Branded'? And how would you describe it's sound?

Sean Tarr: A lot has changed since 'Trigger' was released and everybody feels differently about the future of America and the world in general. Without going into a discourse on all the ramifications of 9/11 and our current government I can tell you this: we're a lot angrier now than we were when we recorded 'Trigger'! Hey, I love to party as much as the next guy and am generally upbeat but.... the bubble has burst and we are toe to toe with some very unhappy shit these days. As far as the overall sound, we wanted this album to be as big and ballsy as possible yet melodic and warm, human sounding if you will. The best of old and new. We wanted this album to be contemporary sounding without compromising the overall melodic feel. I wanted more organic sounds, especially with the guitars. Only vintage gear was used on this record in regards to the guitar sounds. I agree with Lenny Kravitz, that it makes for a bit more warmth. Something definitely lacking in a lot of todayís hard rock/metal.

The Loudest Rock: 'Trigger' was more of a straight ahead fun record, that touched upon some mature topics, as opposed to the average 80s era band. This album shows alot of growth and a bit of a transition, similar to how SKID ROW evolved between the first and second album. With that said, do you feel you have matured as musicians and as songwriters since 'Finger on the Trigger'?

Sean Tarr: Absolutely! You can't help but move forward in my opinion because life changes you in small ways everyday. Granted it isn't always dramatic, at least in the public's eyes, but no two songs are exactly alike no matter what. Every time we record we try to push our own envelopes. I hope it's obvious with "Branded".

The Loudest Rock:
My personal favorite song from "Finger On The Trigger" was the ballad "Let Me Down Easy". It to me was an incredibly well written song. What was the inspiration behind it? Did you take a similar approach to the newer material?

Sean Tarr: Well, I think you take whatever approach you can when it comes to writing! I try not to follow any kind of formula per say but rather follow whatever melody I'm working on at the time, what makes sense for the flow of the song. It's all about a good hook at the core then the overall dynamics come into play. What is the emotion you're trying to get across? Anger, pain, happiness, anticipation, sorrow etc....All of these things have to fit together like a puzzle. Sometimes you hit the mark, sometimes you don't.

The Loudest Rock: What's goes through your mind during pre-production? How do you tackle the task of creating your music? What were the writing sessions for "Branded" like, and was there alot of practice session to fine-tune the material?

Sean Tarr: Sometimes Mike or myself have demos already recorded from home, which we bring in. Sometimes we're lucky enough to collaborate with an outside writer or sometimes it's just a riff we all work out on the spot and turn into a song. Whatever works. We're all pretty open minded and flexible in the early stages of the writing process. It's usually later after we all formulate very definite ideas of how we want something to sound when the sparks start flying. It's all about getting in a rehearsal room and grinding it out. Everybody brings something to the table and the songs aren't really born until everybody puts their stamp on them. The only way that happens is by playing the tunes over and over. Tweaking and playing, tweaking and playing until you're singing them in your sleep! The fine-tuning usually takes place when we actually start recording and everybody hears the individual tracks.

The Loudest Rock: Please give us your thoughts on band now as opposed to 2 years ago.

Sean Tarr: We're much more focused now. We all love this record 100% as opposed to 'Trigger' which was more love/hate. We are ready to hit it hard!

The Loudest Rock: What songs get you going when you hear them off the new album?

Sean Tarr: "Kill Your Idols", "Scream (NYC)", "Walk Before You Crawl".

The Loudest Rock: The band seems to have a more 'gritty' look and image with the new photos. The session doesn't seem to be the 'typical' band photo. What was the inspiration and idea by doing a shoot in a warehouse?

Sean Tarr: We wanted a modern, gritty look because we're feeling kind of gritty and edgy these days. We definitely wanted a no-nonsense in your face kind of feel that would match the feel of the songs.

The Loudest Rock: Your guitar solos and general playing style are quite unique...

Sean Tarr: why thank you.

The Loudest Rock: ...and reminded me alot of Ed Campbell (ex-AdrianGale guitarist) where your solos seem to float ontop of the main chord progression whilst being very soul filled which I find that is adds alot of feeling and purpose to the song. Is there a particular way you approach your solos?

Sean Tarr: To me it's all about note selection. Whatever you play, at whatever speed you play it, its got to sing. It's got to compliment the overall attitude and feel of the song not fight it. There are many different ways to go about this but style aside, it's either good or it's bad. You can't fake it.

The Loudest Rock: Any interesting/funny stories from the studio?

Sean Tarr: We were recording Mike's lead vocals. At the Latt Kave, Anthony, (head engineer on the album) has a few of these fake bush-tree things in between two of the couches. It seemed like one of these bush-tree things was falling on someone almost daily. Back to Mikes vocals......evidently, John Kivel didn't see it coming and the tree fell on him. He let out a yelp of surprise that was so loud that the microphone in the vocal booth picked it up between two lines that Mike was singing at the time. I'm not sure but if you listen carefully you might just hear John Kivel's yelp on "Branded".

The Loudest Rock: How do you feel about the current state of the music industry and where itís headed as a whole??

Sean Tarr: I personally think there is almost no imagination left in the industry. It's nothing like it used to be. Big labels don't take chances anymore, A&R people are too afraid for their jobs to take a chance on something that isn't a sure thing. Not that I blame them in light of the current economy. CD sales are down, it's cheaper to go the file-sharing route. It's pretty grim out there unless you're a rapper or Britney Spears. Hell, MTV should simply re-name themselves 'TV'. Where's the music? It's cool watching Ozzie and all but I wish they would revert back to the old format where they actually played videos.

The Loudest Rock: What is your opinion of the 'digital age' of music with the advent of MP3 files and such.

Sean Tarr: I think it will eventually kill the 'CD' as we know it. Why buy a CD when you can just download files and store them in your computer and MP3 players? What's more, digital technology and the Internet have created a medium the recording industry will never be able to fully regulate I'm afraid and that's a shame. Not for the big labels, God knows they make enough money regardless but for the artists! When you download music without paying for it you are stealing somebody's hard work/property and literally taking the food off their table in some cases! Not all of us are wealthy rock stars. In fact the majority of us are anything but! Karma gets us all in the end so follow your conscience.

The Loudest Rock: What tips would you give to beginning musicians?

Sean Tarr: Learn your instrument! Take pride in what you do and aspire to be as good as you possibly can be, don't shortcut anything. It comes back to haunt you or reward you in the end. There are too many bands out there with mediocre players, therefore mediocre bands. Visualize yourself doing what you want to do be it in the studio or on stage. It also helps to have a truly talented role model. There aren't as many as there used to be unfortunately. At least from a guitarist's point of view I don't see many Eddie VanHalen's or Jimmy Page's or Jeff Beck's out there anymore. There was a time when every time you turned around there was somebody blowing your mind with their playing. The Loudest Rock: Now it has been mentioned that you guys have opened for some of the biggest bands back in the day from SKID ROW to WINGER etc. How does it feel to know that you guys are still going strong while some of the bands you opened for are no longer together.

Sean Tarr: It feels good to still be doing this after all these years, I feel very fortunate. As Zakk Wylde once said, "If you've got a guitar in your hands you're winning."

The Loudest Rock: What Gear was used in the recording of "Branded"?

Sean Tarr: I used about 8 different guitars on "Branded". Mostly vintage guitars, and a few new ones. I loved playing the 85' charvel strat. Most of the solos were done with that guitar. The 84' Gibson Flying V was one of my favorites as well as the Gretsch 6120 Setzer Hot Rod model. Now I know why Brian Setzer always plays one, they sound incredible! Everything was pumped through a 69' Marshall 100 watt super lead and 50 watt Hiwatt DR 504. You can't beat the old amps cranked up. You've gotta push some air baby!

The Loudest Rock: Now for the question we ask every band that comes through TLR! If you could form your dream team band...who would it be and would you include yourself in it?

Sean Tarr: Damn what a question.! Lets say I wasn't in the band:
Michael Schenker--Guitars (Best combination of tone and note selection)
Eddie Van Halen-- (Lets face it, he re-invented modern electric rock guitar. Nobody more fun to listen to.)
Tommy Aldrige--Drums (Rock solid, great chops)
John Paul Jones---Bass (One of the best rock bassists ever!)
Steven Tyler---Vocals (This guy is amazing. He sounds better than ever and pours out more soul and gritty, sexy rock n' roll attitude than anyone.
God knows what that would sound like but they all kick ass at what they do. If I were in the band, it would be the guys I'm playing with right now. I'm already there. :)

The Loudest Rock: Any parting words for the fans and board dwellers?

Sean Tarr: Thank you for supporting the bands and the music TLR supports. I truly believe rock is making a comeback and it's because of all of you. It's all about the fans, musician and non-musician alike. Without you there would be nothing.

Thanks Sean, it was a pleasure speaking with you, Good luck with the album! I'm sure the TLR family will love it! Look for a sitdown with the voice behind the TNA Mic, Mike McManomon, in two weeks!!

Interview by Patrick Rankine - TLR.COM
All photos by Kent Miller @ www.kentmillerstudios.com




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